Robert Matthew Walker | Musical Opinion May - 2008
David Campbell is well known as one of the leading British clarinetists of his generation, and this very fine new CD from Clarinet Classics brings three Concertos, two of which were composed for him. It opens with a quite out-standing and beautiful performance of Finzi's wondrous work, followed by a relatively new piece. Agnostic, a Concerto for Clarinet, Strings and Percussion by Graham Fitkin, dating from 1997. This fits very well with the Finzi and shows itself to be a finely composed, highly atmospheric composition, although the title of the work remains somewhat obscure and might eventually militate against it receiving the wider audience the music clearly deserves. Finally, Carl Davis' Concerto, a work with finale of which caused me some concern at the World Premiere in 1984, in that I was not sure that the composer had successfully integrated the various tempi of the music.
In this performance it comes across as a much more successful conclusion to a work that deserves to enter the repertoire, attractive but not flippant, and clearly music by a confident composer who clearly knows what he is doing at all times and why. The Aurora Orchestra plays very well indeed for its distinguished soloist, and Nick Collon is much to be commended for his ability as an accompanist in works that are by now means easy to direct. The recording quality is superb, making this a valuable CD which is most recommended.
John Playfair | Clarinet & Saxophone | Autumn 2008 Volume 33, Number 3
Graham Fitkin's, subtitled Agnostic, is a one-movement cumulative affair of misty strings, distant bells, and relentless choppy clarinet arpeggios, hauntingly suggestive to me of some unspecified disaster at sea, though the composer modestly claims only that is is 'not purely mathematical'. Anyway it's a fascinating piece. Carl Davis's Concert, which has waited 24 years for a recording, is more conventional, with a first movement said to represent the plains of Hungary, though I rather pictured Copland's wide open spaces, a tender Andante and an exciting finale full of Bartókian scampering with reposeful interludes; hummable tunes crop up in all the movements of this likeable work. Campbell sounds totally commited throughout and up to every technical demand. We are given all the details of his clarinet set-up, so I'll pass them on: Buffet Vintage, Lomax mouthpiece, Super Revelation ligature. The result is a warm and ringing sound, steady as a rock over the entire compass and dynamic range. The orchestra, new to me, seems to enjoy the dissonant tension stored in all three fo these pieces, even the Finzi, and the whole thing adds up to a highly recommendable disc.
David DeBoor Canfield | Review on Peter Lieuwen's Living Waters, Anachronisms, Concerto for Violin & Orchestra and River of Crystal Light
...no less praise may be showered upon the disc's concluding work, River of Crystal Light, scored for solo clarinet, harp, piano and strings. A steady asymmetrical flow of eighth notes drives the opening section, which may be described as joyous and exuberant. The effect of the piano and harp overlaying punctuated chords (each instrument taking some of the notes) is stunning, as is the virtuosic solo clarinet part, brilliantly played by David Campbell. Harmonic movement often progresses by the relationship of the third in a most pleasing fashion. The title of the work is drawn from Eugene Field’s famous nursery rhyme which begins, "Winken, Blinken and Nod one night sailed off in a wooden shoe; Sailed on a river of crystal light into a sea of dew." Given that it’s been quite a few decades since I’ve heard that, I hope I might be forgiven for having not immediately recognized the source of the title.